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Mulholland Drive

A strange trip through L.A.

David Lynch took a little detour between Lost Highway and his latest mind-warping feature Mulholland Drive when he created the aptly titled The Straight Story, a quiet film about an elderly guy driving a tractor across the U.S. The most disturbing thing in that film was knowing that somewhere, hidden beneath the Andrew Wyeth tableaus, Lynch's contorted imagination slithered innocuously along. His latest film feels like an extension of Lost Highway with its eerie echo-chamber sounds and its plunge into murder, death, sex, mistaken identity and nightmare reality. But where Lost Highway starts in a dead of night blast with the road whizzing by to David Bowie's manic crooning, Mulholland Drive opens with a lobotomized Ennio Moriccone score - maddeningly languid but beautiful - and a limo creeping up the Los Angeles street straight into a collision with a car of drunken, grotesquely screaming teenagers. After the wreck, a dark-haired woman--gorgeous, sultry, the alter-ego to whatever blond Lynch will introduce us to later on-stumbles bleeding into the twinkling lights of Hollywood. She wakes up in the courtyard of an apartment complex, sneaks into an open door, and curls herself into a helpless ball under the kitchen table.

When bubbly, innocent, very blond Betty (Naomi Watts) walks into her aunt's apartment (she's fresh out of Canada, hoping to become a Big Star in L.A. while her aunt's away on business), she finds the nameless woman standing in the shower, in shock. The not-yet-jaded Betty takes this woman (played by Laura Harring) for an acquaintance of her aunt's and befriends her on the spot, trying to help her remember her name, her life before the accident, and the source of the mass of 100-dollar bills stuffed into her purse.

From there everything spirals into realms full of succubae and night sweats, with people disappearing into dark shadows, ominous conversations where people tell each other what's oozing out of the depths of their twisted psyches over pancakes and coffee, and where the more ordinary and normal a human being is, the more they make your skin crawl. Betty's intrepid curiosity and willingness to brave dead bodies and ominous messages gives her a sinister tinge that washes out her girl-next-door looks.

Where Lynch slips, though, is in his inability to keep what were probably supposed to be humorous moments from feeling like really bad melodrama. When these scenes do work—especially when he's taking jabs at inept detectives and pompous Hollywood producers—they're legitimately funny, but a few scenes made the cut that even the most die-hard Lynch fan might scoff at. But luckily those moments are rare. Like Lost Highway, this film takes a sharp turn halfway through, and everything you've witnessed and absorbed is thrown right back at you, mangled and coded like you're waking from a dream into reality, or the other way around. Mary Sweeney, Lynch's longtime collaborator, has edited the film in a way that evokes the rhythm of a rambling, chaotic car ride, screeching, turning, peeling out, coasting along - it feels sort of like psychological off-roading.


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Mulholland Drive
Rated R
2 hour 27 minutes

Laura Herring
Ann Miller
Justin Theroux
Robert Forster
Dan Hedaya